ACL surgery an option for active older adults
Active older adults no longer have to settle for a wobbly knee after injuring their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), according to a new article in the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.
The ACL is the key ligament stabilizing the knee, and is especially important for holding the joint steady during jumping, pivoting and twisting. When a person ruptures the ACL—an injury typically accompanied by a loud popping sound and severe pain—it can be repaired using a piece of tendon from the leg or from a cadaver.
However, until fairly recently, ACL repair hadn’t been considered an option for people over 50, or even in some cases people in their 40s, according to the Health Letter article. Instead, these individuals would undergo physical therapy to restore strength and balance. Non-surgical treatment can improve knee function, but it doesn’t completely restore knee stability, so older patients had to curtail their activity levels.
These days, people in their 40s and 50s who are active and want to stay that way are increasingly considered good candidates for the surgery, the Health Letter.
For people who have enough stability in the knee for day-to-day activity, and don’t plan to resume pursuits requiring pivoting or jumping (like playing basketball or skiing), nonsurgical rehabilitation may be enough. This involves doing exercises to strengthen leg muscles and restore balance. Usually people can return to normal activity in a month. While wearing a brace can help protect the knee if you do decide to engage in potentially risky activities without having your ACL repaired, this is no guarantee your knee won’t give out again.
Surgery may be a better option for people who want to keep doing sports that demand quick stops and starts and twists, as well as for people whose knees tend to give way during day-to-day activities. You may also do better with surgery than non-surgical care if you have damage to the knee cartilage or other ligaments supporting the knee, according to the Health Letter.
SOURCE: Mayo Clinic Health Letter, March 2009.
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